Urban Habitat Award Finalist: National September 11 Memorial, New York City

Using Voids to Make Meaningful Places

The National September 11 Memorial is a 3.2-hectare plaza set within the dense urban fabric of Lower Manhattan, where the former World Trade Center Twin Towers once stood. The Memorial Plaza is an integral part of the 6.5-hectare redeveloped World Trade Center Complex, and it reaches and connects the site to the city beyond. It is an open and welcoming design that is meant to foster the democratic values of public assembly that played such a pivotal role in the city’s collective response to the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The Memorial Plaza forms a clearing in the middle of the city and is vaulted by a permeable canopy of close to four hundred swamp white oak trees. As visitors to the memorial make their way towards the center of this space, they encounter the two reflecting pools that deeply puncture the vast flat expanse of the plaza, and form empty vessels. They are recessed 9 meters into the ground and are lined by waterfalls, delineating the location of the former towers. The voids are absence made present and visible.